Randy Rodriguez, Nissan America

When car companies develop a new model, hundreds of designers compete for the sketch-to-reality crown—and breakout success is rarer than a '62 Ferrari GTO. But fresh-faced Randy Rodriguez entered a Nissan contest and clinched that uncommon victory with his reimagining of the Z. His take makes its debut this spring, just in time for his 32nd birthday.

Photograph courtesy of Nissan

When car companies develop a new model, hundreds of designers compete for the sketch-to-reality crown—and breakout success is rarer than a '62 Ferrari GTO. But fresh-faced Randy Rodriguez entered a Nissan contest and clinched that uncommon victory with his reimagining of the Z. His take makes its debut this spring, just in time for his 32nd birthday. Ian Daly

Q: I've heard of designers' being inspired by Aston Martin or Porsche—but Datsun?

A: My first car was an '80 380Z, then I had a '77 280Z. All my girlfriends thought I loved the car more than them. In design school they said, "Why are you always drawing Datsuns?"

Q: What sets Japanese car styling apart from European design?

A: I think it's a little more techno. You know, they're into anime, robots, and Gundam—and the cars reflect that. They're really aggressive.

Q: So how did you translate that to the new Z?

A: I'm attracted to things that are powerful. All the Zs were good race cars. I imagined them more flared out—so I added flares and giant wheel forms. I took inspiration from jets and Shark Week.

Q: I assume you got a raise?

A: Ha! Unfortunately not. And no free car!

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